Has the UK Government stepped up its “Dash-for-Gas”?

20th September 2015

One week after the Government turned down the big Navitas bay offshore wind farm, the Government has shown which technology it really loves. Gas.

It’s approved a whopping new 1800 MW gas-fired power station in Lincolnshire, by French giant EdF Energy.

With construction taking 28-36 months, and a lifetime of 35 years, this station would be in operation from around 2020 to 2055.

It’s deeply concerning for the UK’s climate ambitions:

  • The Government often talks about gas being a “bridge” to low-carbon. Being in operation til 2055 is a very, very long bridge indeed.
  • Is this bridge needed at all? The Government’s own figures show that coal power will be largely phased out by 2023. From then on, new gas will be competing with lower-carbon electricity sources.
  • Energy Minister Lord Bourne couched the decision as being around “clean” energy. Gas-power stations are hardly clean. At around 360 g/kWh, they’re around 7 times higher than the average carbon intensity for electricity the Committee on Climate Change says is needed by 2030. After 2030, the average needed would fall even further.
  • Gas is cleaner than coal, but to call it “clean” is like an alcoholic saying I’ve given up the whisky, and I’m moving onto a pint of port a day. My liver’s never felt better.

A new dash for gas?

The decision is also a taste of what’s likely to come:

After a period of policy uncertainty which was preventing big companies taking forward gas-power plans, this looks like a restart of a new “dash-for-gas”.

It’s not surprising: with coal stations closing down, the Government more and more hostile to all types of renewables, and nuclear power increasingly exposed as a colossally expensive and risky white elephant, that just leaves…gas.

Developers can see which way the Government is going. Here’s our latest update of the status of possible new gas stations, and on this map.

This announcement, coupled with appointing an oil industry insider to advise number 10 on climate policy, marks yet another bad week for UK climate policy.

But there are some positive signs. Technology is on our side: as costs continue to fall renewables will become cheaper than new gas. This is another reason why it’s essential we continue to develop them and not lock ourselves into new gas infrastructure.

Another good sign is that a broad coalition of businesses, unions and public interest groups is growing and pressing the Government to reverse its savage attacks on the renewables sector. Boris Johnson has waded in too – demanding support for the solar industry. With growing pressure, ministers could yet change their plans…So…

Please ask your MP to #saveoursolar

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Post written by Simon Bullock,  18 September 2015